This is part 2 of how I advocated for myself during my time of crisis.
This is my story of how I admitted myself to a hospital to save my own life.
I arrived at the hospital via ambulance.
While they escorted me to an emergency room, doctors, nurses, social workers, and psychologists wandered the halls holding their clipboards to their hips. Bulky 80s looking computers and modern monitors strung along the ceiling and desks.
I was frightened out of my mind. And when I say that, I mean that. I felt like I was standing next to myself watching myself shiver on the hospital bed, waiting for someone to approach from behind the curtain with a clipboard.
And they did, one by one, a nurse practitioner drew my blood and asked me to pee in a cup. Next a psychologist asked what sort of drugs I was on and why I was there that day.
Then a social worker came in, she explained to me this was not the only hospital she visited today, nor was it her last. Her first response when meeting me was, “I am so sorry you have to share your story so many times today, I know this can be a very difficult place, but feel free to tell me as much or as little as you need. Please give me what information you can.”
But they all asked the same question, “What were you planning on doing before you came here today?”
And I told them, “I wanted to kill myself.” I looked at myself looking at my hands.
I imagined all of the ways I could kill myself with the objects in the room, there was a biohazard containers, I believed it would be too slow. Maybe the syringe or scissors they got out from the drawer, one of the nurses forgot to lock to drawer behind them, I could find a way to cut myself with-
“How?” they all asked. ”How did you want to kill yourself.”
I stuttered, held my shaking shoulders.
The nurse practitioner was kind enough to finish my word for me. “Pills.” She nodded, then I nodded. Then she clicked her pen, and scribbled on her clipboard.
“Now, this is a very important question, Brigid,” she said.” During the time you have been sitting sitting here, have you thought about hurting yourself or worse?”
I nodded, “I was just thinking about how I could use the syringe to make myself bleed out.”
They admitted me immediately. But what the hell does that even mean?
That means you walk with whomever is with you in the hospital, in my case my mom and dad, up to the behavioral unit. They ask for your everything. In my case, I gave them my shoes, my jacket, my keys, my wallet, my phone, my necklace, and my earrings. Once those things are taken away, so are the people from outside. My mom and dad were told they had to come back during visitors hours.
The nurse practitioner typed in a code next to this steel door, it clicked, and unlocked. Then, I entered the behavioral unit. It smelled like lemon bleach and it singed my nose.
“Sit right there.” an old nurse said. She grabbed her clipboard from the tall, oblong desk before me.
I looked at this old blonde pixie in aqua scrubs, then at the metal stackable chair before me. I sat down. Time started to slow down as I looked at the beige hospital floor. A yelp from the other side of the unit, two nurses gabbed about ending their shift soon, tapping keyboard keys, but all I could see were my knees shaking before me. I needed someone to know I was scared; I was here.
The pixie nurse asked me a few questions about myself, I nodded or answered; I’m not quite sure I remember now. The first day in a new place is always hardest to remember, because there are so many stimuli to remember, the taste, the smell, the scrubs. However, I still remember that she wore a powder sugared scented perfume, which made this beige hospital floor look a little like cream for a moment.
“It’s time for us to go into the room now,” she said as she held her clipboard on her hips. It was a larger room with two beds inside, a trash can that held a paper bag inside it, a sink in the bed space right outside the bathroom. She said, “This isn’t something I’ve never done before, but I have to check you while you’re naked.”
I nodded as though I knew more than I did. I knew she needed to check if I brought drugs, or a razor, or anything really that I would use to hurt myself. I knew I wasn’t that way, but I also wasn’t so sure since the other room.
I stripped. She asked me to bounce up and down while my legs were open. She explained that this was done in case I held or had hidden anything in my body; it would fall out. She told me to put my hands above my head and turn around. She did not touch me once. “You’re clean.” she said.
I felt far from that.
“There are some fresh, folded clothes on the bed if you want something clean to wear. If you feel more comfortable, you can put your other clothes back on.”
I was her last patient for the night and when she left, the cream left with her and the beige set in again.
I changed into the scrubs that had a tie at the front, but wrapped around at least twice or something.
I didn’t cry that night, but I did hold myself. Curled into myself.
The door kept opening and closing every hour, nurses kept checking if I was okay.
Sometimes they’d say, “Hokana.” I usually sat up in the bed, but they said, “Hokana, it’s okay now, go back to sleep.”
I want to make clear that this is an account of just my personal experience, and I am aware that the experience of others may vary. But I feel it’s too important to not share my experience, to maybe help someone understand what can happen when you call for help in a mental health crisis and are admitted to a hospital.
Things to expect if you are admitted:
1. Upon arrival to the hospital, a nurse, a doctor, a social worker, and a psychiatrist will ask more questions about your mental/emotional condition.
2. The psychiatrist will ask if you had any suicidal ideation and how. Answer honestly.
3. You will possibly be admitted.
4. If you are admitted, they will escort you to the behavioral unit.
5. They will ask for your belongings to hold. Now this is important, they are not taking your things forever. They make sure to take care of your things while you are admitted. They do this to ensure that you will not hurt yourself with the objects you brought.
6. A nurse will examine, without touching, to ensure you did not bring something that could hurt you.
7. You will get a new optional set of clothes to wear and a bed to sleep in.
Keep asking for help until someone hears you. There is no shame in asking for help.
If you have or have had thoughts of suicide, know that you can advocate for yourself.
If you need help in making that call, don’t be afraid to ask a family member or friend to help.
If you live in the Richmond area, call their Crisis Prevention Hotline: 804-819-4100